2 Samuel 11:1. When kings go forth to war. After the latter rain, early in May, when the campaign could open, and when the main of their harvest was saved.—Rabbah was the capital of the Ammonites, very populous, and situated on the Jabbok. The city built on its ruins is the Philadelphia mentioned by St. John. Revelation 3:7.
2 Samuel 11:2. An evening tide. Eglon, and Ishbosheth, reposed during the heat of noon. The rich still indulge in this custom, in all the warmer climates.
2 Samuel 11:4. David sent—and took her. We may infer from Bathsheba’s marriage with David, that she had given at least some proofs of virtue.
2 Samuel 11:6. Send me Uriah the Hittite. He was either a valiant man descended from that nation, and a proselyte to Judaism, or he had assumed that name on vanquishing them; the former is the most probable. Homer’s fable of Bellerophon is thought by many to be the Uriah of the sacred writings; because many circumstances in both the cases are alike. I will attempt an abridged translation.—Hipponomus was the son of Glaucus king of Epyrus, a fine and generous prince; but having killed his brother Beller, he was surnamed Bellerophon. And taking refuge with Prœtus king of the Argives, Sthenobœa the queen became enamoured with his fine appearance; but unable to draw him to her embraces, her love changed into fury, and she accused him to her husband of having insulted her modesty. Prœtus, unwilling to stain his palace with the blood of a prince admitted to protection, sent him to his father-in-law, Joabates king of Lycia, with sealed letters, containing the document of his accusation, and with orders for him to be put into a way to undo himself. Hence came the adage, “to carry Bellerophon’s letters.” Joabates, to effectuate this with honour, gave him a small guard, and sent him to fight against the Solymi, &c.
2 Samuel 11:11. The ark (of God) abide in tents. The ark while in exile had acquired so much glory, that the army would not take the field without it.
2 Samuel 11:18. Joab sent and told David. Generals could then fight better than they could write. Joab instructed the messenger, always a man of merit; to add, in case the king was angry at the unsuccessful assault, “thy servant Uriah is dead also.” So Joab knew for certainty that the king had the highest indignation against Uriah, and the messenger must now suspect it. What then must those heroes think when they heard that David in one month had married Bathsheba! No man can long conceal his sin. Here is a mirror in which all may contemplate their own hearts. Culprits will commit a hundred crimes to cover one.
Lord what is man! Who that has followed David through the vicissitudes of providence for five and twenty years, and contemplated his piety, his virtues, his victories, would have expected his lustre now to be obscured by a cloud so dark and awful? What eye that has followed him in all his rising hopes and glory, would expect to follow him on ground so tragic, where his present disgrace was more than all his former glory. David had been elevated to the throne of Israel, and all his enemies at home seemed to vie in repairing their faults. He had taken Zion, the strongest city in Asia; and in seven successive wars had vanquished all his foes. He had now no need himself to fight, for his generals were more than adequate to every difficulty. Therefore he took his ease, slept on his couch, and said, “Thou Lord by thy favour hast made my mountain to stand strong: I shall never be moved.”
From this sad case we may observe further, that prosperity is the most dangerous period of human life. David was safe in camps and wars; but now rolling in affluence, and walking on the battlements of his palace, he lost the command of his passions, and fell a victim to seduction ere he was aware. Through an open window, by the declining rays of the sun, he saw Bathsheba in an incautious situation. Ah, fatal sight! It excited impure desires, the smoke of passion beclouded the operations of reason, and he ceased to be a king. The conqueror of so many nations was vanquished by a glance of the eye. Why did he not flee; why did he not call in the aid of heaven? Why did he not recollect the words, “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to behold vanity?” Why did he not say that frantic passion is not pleasure; and why did not this man, hitherto wise and discreet, trace all the consequences of lawless love? Truly he that committeth adultery lacketh understanding, and destroyeth his own soul. Proverbs 6:32.
David, instead of shunning the temptation, sent for the woman, and she promptly approached the royal presence in her best robes. Knowing the virtues of his life, she probably hoped to hear good news from her husband, or receive some letter. But ah, indolent woman, finding thyself deceived, why didst thou not recollect thy duty to God, and thy fidelity to the bravest of husbands, fighting to advance both thee and himself? Why didst thou not resist, and cry; better to shame the king than shame thyself! Surely thou wast an accomplice in the crime; and future ages shall reproach thy name.
The deed being done, and likely to come to light, David’s momentary and frantic gratification was instantly converted into ten thousand pains. Oh the terrors of having his character, high as it stood in a religious view, exposed to the nations. He could not be ignorant that his crime was known to God, and to angels; and that it would surely be laid open by him in adjusting the rewards and punishments of a future state. He could not be ignorant that it was far the best to submit his case just as it was to God, and the public; and make such concessions and presents to Uriah as might diminish the consequences of his sin. But here passion again beclouded reason. His pride struggled a thousand ways to elude the scorn and odium of the public. Hence he sent for Uriah, and affected to enquire concerning the war, while his object was to deceive him; but God, who would neither know David nor any other man in his sins, took occasion from Uriah’s high sense of military honour to thwart the foul design. David next attempted by wine to make him violate his vow, and thereby to cover his crime. This being frustrated by the same sense of honour, the king, frantic with anxiety, resolved to make Uriah perish in the war. He thought that this would be less sinful than assassination. Oh what sins: what vain efforts it costs a fallen man to cover one of his iniquities! Here is a mirror for a man deeply initiated into the mystery of crimes. Uriah must not only bear Bellerophon’s letters; but Joab must also be a party in the transaction. Joab had shed the blood of Abner, and now he would probably rejoice to see the king in the same situation. Therefore Joab sent Uriah to assault the strongest gate, and hasted to acquaint David that Uriah had fallen. Nay, the soldiers who had deserted the brave Uriah, when cursed by their companions, would say, they had obeyed orders! We have need to pray for great men; for being high in command, their conscience is placed in a difficult situation, and they ought to be fully aware that heaven never admits apologies for guilt.
Oh what a volume of instruction is here conveyed to man. If David, mighty David thus fell, and fell from sin to sin, as a man slipping on difficult ground, in rising often receives a second fall, how should weak and frail professors tremble at the approach of sin? Let us keep our armour; let us never suffer the slightest criminal thought to lurk unmortified in the heart; for if this cedar of Lebanon fell, what has not the hyssop of the wall to fear? This we shall farther see, while we trace the tremendous series of David’s punishments, together with the depth and the fruits of his repentance.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 11". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany